Shameless Season 5 Episode 8 Review: “Uncle Carl”

Shameless

“Uncle Carl” dealt with some very heavy issues this week on Shameless, and I am so very pleased with how it all went down. Let’s take a look at Ian’s release and reaction, Fiona’s attempt to mend things with Gus, and the Carl debacle.

I was anxious to see how Shameless would deal with mental illness. Monica, the Gallagher’s estranged bipolar mother, has been a constant reference point in this episode, and it feels appropriate. The Gallagher children spend so much of their time trying to survive and not become Frank and Monica.

Lip and Fiona meet at the holding facility to pick up Ian, and they discuss how Gus has not spoken to Fiona since she apologized. Lip remarks “Silence in our house usually means someone stopped breathing.” Lip also wonders why Mickey did not show up, and Fiona is not surprised. We get a short scene of Mickey drinking the day away. Ian comes home with Lip and Fiona, and he is still heavily sedated but everyone seems happy to see him.

Fi leaves Debbie responsible for Ian and his medication schedule. In any other show that would be a ridiculous proposition, but Debbie is mature and experienced for her age. She can handle it, right? Wrong. Ian flushes his meds and that moment where we don’t see what Ian does with his meds exactly had me so nervous.

Poor Debbie runs to Fiona crying, and they look for solutions to finding Ian new meds. Debbie’s plot was admirable in this episode. She looks for every option she can to help Ian. She goes to the hospital and pretends to have bipolar disorder, but the doctor does not believe her. She even visits the Milkovitch household to ask if they can buy the drugs off the street. We get some insight into the family business when Mickey’s brother tells her that there is no market for lithium. Debbie gives Mickey some very important insight into relationships with people with bipolar disorder. She tells him he cannot drink them away, and it was the right thing to tell him. Mickey and Ian need to make it work because my heart will break otherwise (I imagine most of the viewers will have the same reaction).

Meanwhile Ian seems glazed over, he even spends some time floating in the very disgusting pool. Carl throws a toaster into it for “shock therapy,” which obviously does not work. I missed Ian interacting with the other Gallaghers. He and Carl talk about “what it feels like to be crazy,” and Carl asks him if he has ever thought of some ridiculous situations and if that qualifies as being ‘crazy.’ Ian remains determined to prove that he is not like Monica.

When Fiona confronts Ian, he is adamant about the comparison to their mother. She tries to guilt him into taking medication but he doesn’t fall for it. He accuses her of treating him too harshly when she was responsible for Liam ingesting drugs just a few months ago. She counters that she spent time in jail, and he says, “So did I.” This was a nice point to what it must feel like to him, and I am interested to hear more of Ian’s opinions on his diagnosis as the season wraps up.

Finally, Mickey shows up and lies in bed with Ian. They share a nice moment, and I really hope they can work things out. Ian’s struggle with bipolar disorder will be difficult, and I cannot wait to see how the writers continue to tackle it.

We do not see Gus much this episode, and it weighs heavily on Fi. She’s giving him space after she apologized for sleeping with Jimmy/Steve. Her boss tells her that space is the worst thing she can do, especially if he is about to go on tour with his band. Lip, Sammy, and Carl tell Fi about the one thousand mile rule, which means that adultery does not count if the band is at least one thousand miles away from their wives. After realizing her sister went looking for prescription drugs and V was about to go on a date (and giving V advice she needs to take herself), Fi runs to catch Gus before the band leaves. I am a sucker for running shots of any form; movement is always so exciting in that format.

She catches him and tells him, “I hate what I did, I hate that I hurt you and I want to take it back and I don’t know what love is.” All of this is fine and good, but I felt Fi really meant it when she said, “When everything with my family was falling apart I just kept wishing you were with me.” Fiona attracts chaos, and if she wants to share managing that chaos with someone, it really means she is committed.

They kiss and it is nice; she tells him she needs a few weeks before she can be ready to come on the road with him. Gus stops her, and guess what: he needs pace. Fiona was right. She tells him that separation is not good for their marriage, and Gus takes a shot saying that sleeping with her ex is also bad for their marriage. It’s awkward, but he asks her to water his plants. There is hope!

I am not Team Gus or Team Jimmy/Steve: I am Team Fiona-Getting-Her-Life-Together. I think Gus is the person she should settle down with, but in the end, I would just like to see her happy.

Carl chose an interesting drug dealing path this season. His boss uses the fact that Carl is white to his advantage, and in this episode, he recruits him to go across state lines to Michigan. Carl has sold marijuana, but this is bigger; this is heroin. Frank, while trying to manipulate Sammy into leaving forever, recommends strapping the drugs to Chucky because it will be less suspicious. Of course, he calls in an anonymous tip and police officers show up with dogs. They arrest Chucky, who is apparently thirteen, and call Sammy.

Carl expresses his concern with his boss planning to kill him for losing the drugs. Everyone, including Sammy, starts yelling at one another in the house. Fi and Lip are angry with Carl for selling heroin but obviously tell him to run when the cops show up at the door. The police arrest him and he manages to say, “Don’t shoot me, I’m white” before the scene cuts. This is not enough on that issue, Shameless, but it is something. It is so important to remember that this show is set in a very real version of Chicago, and Carl would have faced much different consequences if he were a young black man.

The entire Gallagher crew shows up in the police waiting room, and when an officer says Carl will be in questioning for a few more hours, they all rush up to the window to shout, “Ask for a lawyer!” Uncle Carl, indeed.

Lip is having financial problems that are preventing him from attending class, and in order to raise money, he’s convinced Kev to go back into selling drugs to students. Lip even gives a heart-wrenching story about his family to the financial aid counselor. At first, I thought he was pulling out all of the stops to get the counselor to waive the fees, but it felt genuine, and I can appreciate vulnerable Lip Gallagher.

We finally saw some movement in the Kev and V plotline, and it was entertaining, and then extremely worrying. V and Kev have separated temporarily, and V moved into the Alibi. V spends some time with the babies while Kev sells drugs to college students. V spends even more quality time with Svetlana, who has moved in and offered to perform ‘wifely duties’ for Kev and V. V and Kev had the same response to this interaction, just as they had the same response to the rat running around the Alibi. They are more alike than they realize.

V asks Svetlana when she fell in love with her baby, hoping that she, too, will fall in love with her twins like Kev did. Svetlana, as usual, has interesting insight into the minds of Americans. She says Americans are so black and white with issues: “If someone is like you it is right; if someone is not like you, it is wrong,” and despite all of this helpful advice (Svetlana may save their marriage actually), V still wants to go on her date with Eddie Murphy.

Luckily, for V, Eddie Murphy is still a creep, and she leaves before the date can even begin. Unfortunately, for V, Kev sleeps with a college student while she sits at home with the babies. This couple is my favorite couple on the show, and I am really looking forward to seeing how they mend this. Maybe Svetlana can help! Here’s to the dysfunctional families of Shameless.

Some moments I found interesting/funny:

– Amanda’s roommate is actually in love with her and probably stalking her. We need more screen time with Amanda!

– Carl’s boss corrects Carl’s speech when he says “What’s up?” He says, “You’ve been blessed with an education. Sound like it.”

– Sammy refers to Frank as an untrained dog who keeps pooping all around the house. She can choose to run over the dog, take it back to the pound to be killed, or train the dog.

– The lesbian couple from across the street bought the empty lot next to the Gallagher house to turn it into a community garden. They want the Gallaghers to remove the pool and give ‘just’ $2000 to get a spot in the garden.

– The hospital refers to Frank as ‘Frequent Flier Frank.’

Here are my two questions for the remainder of this season: Where is Sheila? Where is Mandy? I can’t imagine the show without them. Jimmy/Steve got a return appearance; I desperately want my ladies back, please and thank you.

What did you think of this week’s episode of Shameless? Is there hope for Mickey and Ian? Gus and Fiona? V and Kev?

[Photo via Showtime]

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